A Wonderful Vacation

I can't say enough about the last 10 days.  It was SO wonderful to get away from the craziness of everyday life & to just enjoy being with Nate, running, hiking, the stunning views, crisp/clean air, and the peacefulness of being without a computer, work deadlines, and my iPhone.

We ran and hiked a TON, many days covering 15-17 miles.  The views were spectacular, and my legs felt awesome.  I haven't felt this strong or efficient before - running feels effortless & just downright fun :).

One major perk of running/hiking so much is the amount you can see in a day. We literally explored the entire Yosemite valley one day (17 miles of running, with stops for pictures), and got in another 17 mile awesome run/hike along a mountain ridge in Sequoia where we were able to enjoy views along a mountain ridge, run through the giant forest (seeing all of the "named" sequoias) and end by climbing 400 or stairs to the top of Moro rock.

From Yosemite - note Half Dome:

We ended the trip with a stay in Las Vegas (Nate had a 2.5 day continuing education course there).  On the way to Vegas we decided to stop for a run through the Mojave National Preserve.  Good thing we ran early, the last 3 miles of my 12 miler were very dry & warm, even though I finished around 9:30ish, .  Repeat:  very dry, very warm.  Scenery doesn't change there much -- just a straight road with desert on both sides.  Exciting.  I now have a new appreciation for Badwater ultramarathoners (or... think them more crazy than I did before).

We stopped in Fresno CA to find a track for the one hard workout Jerry had written for the week: 10x800 with equal rest.  The goal is 2:40 for these.  Unfortunately, we didn't get to the track until after noon, and it was 92 degrees out.  Plus it feels like the track is radiating the heat back up to you (ironically named "Warmerdam Track", ha).  I struggled through the workout, actually holding on pretty well despite how terribly I run in the heat.  I think I averaged a low 2:42.  Nate made me stop after the 9th one because my legs weren't moving normally & times were slipping... I told him I'd rather just finish the workout no matter how ugly the last one was, but he said that I was doing myself no favors by pushing myself beyond "that point", especially in heat like this.  I reluctantly agreed, but later that evening told him that I was pretty disappointed in myself for having listened to him.  I absolutely HATE cutting workouts short (even though every single workout I do I find myself wondering if I can...), and even though 2:42s in heat like that is a very solid effort, I feel like now I just remember that I did just 9 of them.  Argh.

Vegas was great.  I slept in, had fun in the gym, had time to stretch, nap if I felt like it... ahhhh :).  Don't worry, it wasn't all running related.  We also made time for the pools, a few drinks, and a Vegas show.  Perhaps the highlight of my Vegas ventures was running from our hotel to Henderson NV to a running store where a group was meeting for their 10 mile group run.  (Note dedication: I was up at 4:30am to start this adventure)  When I emailed the head of the group before the start of the trip, I wondered if it could workout... I didn't have a car, and plus, they were only doing 10 miles (I was hoping for 20-23).  But then I mapped directions, and found out it was 11 miles to the store -- perfect!  The manager of the store graciously agreed to give me a lift back.  Gotta love random adventures & meeting/friending other runners! (Aside: I did worry about safety, but researched the group and manager a lot... but I should definitely be careful when devising these crazy plans...)  There was one woman there who was particularly interested in my training and improvements - even more so after she learned our first two marathons were within a minute of each other, and our 5k PRs were within a second of each other :). 

Only bad part of that run, though, was the pace.  My legs were already starting to feel the volume of the previous days in the park, but when I met up with the group they started in 7:15 pace and quickly dropped to 6:45 and then 6:30 mile pace.  I'm sure they thought, "Olympic Trials Qualifier, eh?  Let's see what she's made of!"  Except that I had already run 11 miles for the day & was finishing a low 90's mile week (plus hours of hiking and walking).  I had nothing.  I kept up for about 4 miles, but then could feel that my legs were now completely drained.  Great.  6 more miles... I can do this.  I asked the woman with me if we could slow a little and she was nice enough to agree.  She laughed that she had been so worried about being able to keep up - never expecting me to be the one asking to slow!  We "slowed" to 7:30 mile pace, which was still taking far more effort than it should have.  I knew at that point that this run would end my "my legs feel SOO good" phase I've enjoyed these last few weeks.  It's funny how I can feel that line being crossed now -- the line from running normally tired to running fatigued.

So... we're back now.  Back to work, back to reality.  Remind me to do a better job of leaving a clean house next time I venture off on vacation, okay?  

[P.S. just a little over 2 weeks to go for Grandma's!  Crazy!!]


I survived!

Wow, what an epic workout.  Craig really pulled me though, without him it would have been ugly (impossible, even?  Look at the workout... I told Nate afterwards that I thought Jerry must have been on crack when writing this).  SOOO thankful for the help! :)

2 mile WU
8 at MP
1 at Tempo
4 at MP
1 at Tempo
2 at MP
2 CD
=20 total

It was a little ugly time-wise (running on tired legs, who would have thought that 100+ mile weeks would do that to you), but I don't even care... I DID IT.  The tempo miles were both in around 5:50-5:55, and MP varied between 6:07-6:20 (most closer to 6:20s than 6:07s, unfortunately), with a few ugly miles as well.

I almost left out the last MP segment until Craig suggested trying just a mile of it - which then turned into doing the entire 2 mile segment :).  That particular MP segment slipped to 6:30 pace... which is nowhere in the ballpark of where I want to be, but at that point I was running on completely drained legs & couldn't do anything about it.  It was all about effort at that point, so 6:30s is what it was!

Stomach still a little upset from it, but wow, what a great feeling to have survived the last two weeks (103 last week, and the rolling 7 day mileage ending today crept up to 105).  I have never been able to handle volume like this, especially with the intensity and hard workouts like we've put into the last week!!!


(We're leaving for vacation tomorrow morning, very excited to hike and run in National Parks for the next 7 days!)


Juggling act, continued

Argh.  Just when you think you have everything figured out...

My boss schedules a meeting smack dab in the middle of my planned 20 mile adventure.  Yes, I know, I shouldn't be scheduling this on an work-day afternoon... but I specifically stayed until past 8pm one evening and 10pm another to make this happen, not to mention working ahead on the weekend... I try very had to strike a balance between these crazy weeks/crazy workouts and managing my time and staying on top of my work (sometimes overwhelming, though).

Dr. Bahl had also found a second runner in town who was going to do the second half of the workout with me in Red Wing (which still floors me... how many people are willing to help).

I wrote both the triathlete and the second training partner to tell them the plan was off.  *Sigh*

I was pretty bummed.  I told myself that it was okay, though, that I'm very mentally tough and that I'd do my best alone in Northfield a little later in the day.  Good practice for the marathon when I won't have training partners lined up along the route to help push me.

But... the most wonderful offer came in -- Craig said he'd be willing to help, biking the first portion and running some of the second (don't think I'll allow him to do the entire second half, again, he has a big focus race this weekend).  WOW.  Seriously?!?  I stared at the offer for a while, stunned.  This is honestly the nicest offer EVER.

Guess this is just an example of how many people are willing to help - the people I've met along this journey, the sponsors, family, etc.  I can't thank everyone enough.

Now, just have to get through the workout... wish me luck!!

Oh -- should also mention that Brenden and I made it through the 8x1 mile, averaging 5:53, nailing the last two in sub 5:47.  I struggled with the heat a lot (did it mid-day), but that was still 10 secs/mile faster than last year's workout.  Wow!!


The workout partner juggling act

I'm trying to pack two hard, long workouts (one of which has 16 miles at MP or faster... yikes) in before we fly out for vacation Friday morning.  It's crazy - trying to get tied up in work, last minute planning things, etc.

Each workout is long enough and hard enough (and will be done on tired legs) that I know I need someone or something - anything - to help me through it.

Luckily, Brenden is up for anything.  Since I'm already down in Faribault for a dentist appointment on Tuesday, I can easily swing down to St. Peter and knock out the first hard workout (8x1 mile at tempo, 30 secs rest).  I can work in the morning until appointment, head down for the run, and then work until late in the evening after the workout.  Works out great.

For the second hard workout, I was racking my brain -- I could do it Thursday or Friday.  20 miles total: 8@MP, 1@tempo, 4@MP, 1@T, 2@MP.  That's a leg burner if I ever saw one.  Let me think.  Could I put 20 miles in on Thursday, between the commute to/from work, a full day's work, and getting up to Shoreview by 8:00-8:30pm?  Could I do it Friday before our flight at 7am?  I can't exactly do the 20 miles over lunch on Thursday (ha)... but potentially could leave work a little early... if I could just find someone (but honestly, who wants to do a workout like this, and who could start at 3 or 4 in the afternoon?)...  I sent a note out to Tom at the shop to even see if he or anyone he knew would be up for a portion of the workout, or would be so gracious as to accompany me on a bike (seriously, anyone) .

Craig responded that he might be open to skipping out of work early, but has a 50k race this weekend.  To think he'd be willing to do something the week of a race to help me out is beyond awesome - I'd feel terrible, though, since he has the potential to have a knock-out race.  Luckily, there's a really good triathlete at work that was looking to do an hour sustained effort on Thursday, which lines up decently well with the first 8 miles of MP of one of the workouts.  We threw around times: 6am?  I told him I would be groggy, but I could totally wake up at 4:30 to get there in time. Could we start at 5pm?  He has meetings all day... probably wouldn't work.  We finally found a block of time in the mid-afternoon, I find it awesome that we set up a meeting notice to block off the time :).

Wow.  That took a lot of effort.  Not nearly as much effort as it'll take to get through these workouts and this week, though! :)


Personal Bests

It's been a while, eh? :)

Brief recap:
GAC Alumni 5k: 17:27.22, a 9 second lifetime PR.  Missed the stadium record by 9 seconds.  Bummer.

New Prague 1/2 marathon: 1:19.53.  Done as a marathon pace workout (goal was 1:20-1:21).  Happened to be a 2+ minute lifetime PR as well (only because my previous PR was from the last half of the Trials marathon. :))

New Prague was done at the end of a 103 mile week.  Things have ramped up significantly since the GAC 5k :)

GAC 5k recap:
Brooke, a fellow GAC alum, graciously was a "rabbit" for this race.  Her task was to take us (Linda, a junior U of MN Morris runner looking to get a better NCAA qualifying time) through the mile in 5:35.  She did SO well -- we came through in EXACTLY in 5:35.  I've never been led before, and it was wonderful just to tuck behind.  
She stepped to the outside after the mile, and Linda and I were off.  We worked very well together.  When I felt the pace slipping, I took the lead.
We worked off of each other until the last lap, when Linda passed me & I tried to counter -- and my legs came completely undone.  I wasn't even that tired, lungs-wise, but my legs just stopped working.  I finished in 17:27, while she was able to kick it in to a 17:20 (2 secs from the stadium record).  Ug, where is that track speed when I need it?!?
So - Linda now has the meet record (I previously held it), and I didn't set the stadium record.  Bummer.  But, I'm very happy with the race -- a 9 second PR!  Yipee!!!

Although the time is slower than I was hoping, I am really happy to have focused on the shorter distances this early spring.  I needed it (rewind back to my first 200m workout, where the 200s I did were practically at marathon pace -- I had NO ability to change pace at all!).  It also reminded me that I'm not a talented 5k runner :).

New Prague 1/2 marathon:
I try to line up these long Daniels-prescribed 13 mile MP workouts with a race just to help me through them.    New Prague is perfectly timed - 5 weeks before Grandma's.

Goal was to try to "feel" marathon pace for this "workout".  It's a challenging course, no doubt - completely rolling hills.

Early on, I hit 6:05s and felt that this was my natural rhythm.  Despite the fact that this was a 103 mile week, my legs have felt really good (massage helping, perhaps?) and today 6:05s felt surprisingly effortless.  My lungs also felt huge, which is also surprising since I've been fighting a good cold (think green stuff since Monday night) for most of the week.

I was super excited to come through in 1:19:53.  That's a lifetime PR for me (I haven't raced many outright 1/2 marathons... and when I have, it hasn't been pretty), and an awesome MP effort.  Makes me think that sub 2:40 is within my reach!!  And as Jerry reminded me, perhaps something close to 6:00/mile might be do-able (yikes...).  I looked that up and that would be a 2:37 low... sometimes his optimism impresses me.

Edit: As Steve pointed out, I should mention that I took home the win by over 7 minutes :).  I also, surprisingly, set a new lifetime PR in the 10 mile (what?? I wasn't even racing all-out!) at 1:01:10.  I didn't know that until Nate pointed it out.  That's sort of crazy, when you think about it... guess that means I need to work on my shorter distance PRs :).  Or that I've just improved a lot in the past two years (which is also very much the case).

So... now on to continued mileage.  Yikes.  This week is 103, next close to 90 (due to a day off).  The next week we'll be on vacation, and Jerry's plan calls for anything between 80-100 (our vacations are basically run/hike as much as possible, see as much of national parks as possible, etc :).  That's the most I've ever done in a 3 week period.  Just need to keep myself healthy, happy, and feeling great!!!